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Changing course means good cattle care in Colombia

Francisco Rafael Diaz Sanchez is proud of his farming heritage. “I come from a cattle-raising tradition. My father, my uncle – my grandfathers... and now my sons work with me. My animals have supported me and helped me make my living all of my life,” he says. 

Francisco has two farms – just over 200 hectares in total – in a rural area just outside Monteria, a city in northern Colombia where he keeps 700 beef cattle. 

The cattle in his herd are amongst the 14 million raised for their beef in Colombia. They represent one of the country’s most important industries contributing to both the rural economy and the food security of the whole nation. And unlike beef cattle in other parts of the world, which are often kept intensively and rarely experience fresh grass and sunlight, Francisco’s cattle, like most in Colombia, are kept outside on grazing land and have the freedom to behave naturally. 

But despite such idyllic sounding benefits, Colombian cattle can face serious welfare problems caused by rough handling – striking, kicking and use of sharp implements to get them to move – and procedures like branding, dehorning, castration and ear tagging without consideration of pain relief or control. 

Productivity through animal welfare

Fortunately our animal welfare training courses held with the Colombian Federation of Livestock Farmers (FEDEGAN) are changing all this and the learning processes are taking even experienced farmers like Francisco by surprise.

He explains that until last year he might have described himself as “knowing just about everything there is to know about farming.”

“I found I didn’t really know about animal welfare and what it could do for productivity – good handling, making animals more tame, good feeding, making sure they have shade… Before the training, their tameness and productivity was around 50 per cent and now it is at 85 to 90 per cent…Currently we have a champion cow in milk yield, and I am convinced that this is because we have used the good animal welfare practices we were shown…” 

Francisco is just one of the 272 FEDGAN producers in Colombia that your support has helped WSPA train since 2011; your wonderful generosity is already improving the treatment of hundreds of thousands of beef and dairy cattle as a result. 

“Their owners’ attendance at our courses has meant the animals are handled regularly and correctly to get them used to human contact. Consequently they are much less skittish and stressed as a result and safer for humans to handle and be around too,” explains Jhon Buenhombre, WSPA programmes officer for Colombia.

Our next project with FEDEGAN involves developing up-to-date science-based animal welfare indicators and related recommendations for beef and dairy cattle care that can be used to help farmers make improvements and measure their animals’ progress on a yearly basis.
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